Coffee On My Planner Broke Me

Look for the good,” my grandma used to say. 

I tell ya, it was hard to see the good today. 

Before I even had my coffee, my child had a seizure in the shower. It was short, just an absence seizure, but the blackout and loss of memory/time scared him. And rightfully so.

Then, I had to parent. Every part of me wanted to call in sick, let him call in sick, and just hold him. But that teaches nothing but the ability to use his Epilepsy as an excuse. And I know that. We are raising our kids to not need us, and there’s a difference between “I can’t function.” tired and “I can get through the day.” tired. 

Asher decided he was “I can do it.” tired. He made it through the school day after having experienced a seizure this morning. Proud momma, but I hated being away from him. I did call our boy’s middle school principal to check on him. I mean…I’m not that good at totally leaving him alone and had to feel like I had some eyes on him. I’m still a momma after all.

Oh but that’s not all. Today was day three of advising week at my work. I truly love seeing my students and advising in general; it’s just exhausting. I’ve had 27 advising meetings in the last three days, with more tomorrow, so I’m a little pooped. Also, my family has been sick for days, the reason a seizure popped through for Asher, so the home front feels like it’s falling apart and covered with germs. Eww.

Send all the disinfecting wipes. All of them.

On top of all that, I went to sip my afternoon cup of coffee and my arm decided to malfunction. A spasm sent my coffee cup flying…all over my life. And by my life, I mean my planner.

I lost it. Cuss words in my professional environment. Immediate tears. And my co-workers literally came running. See – we educators understand the importance of a paper planner. I once threatened my father’s life when he set his chewing tobacco spitter on top of said planner in our living room. He didn’t do that again. 

So that was it. The last straw. Coffee on my planner broke me. 

I cleaned up the mess, with the help of my colleagues, let some tears fall, and started researching vacations on my computer. Am I going? No. But the idea made me happy, and I needed to escape, even if it was just for a moment of looking at tropical places while it’s 32 and windy outside. I needed positivity and a distraction.

And while “escaping,” I heard my grandmother. “Look for the good.”

Grandma Louise passed away in 2016, but it’s amazing how much her beautiful, joyful outlook on life is still so much a part of me. She had been through a lot of heartache in her life too, but she found blessings everywhere she looked.

I glanced at the clock and realized it was nearing time for me to do my favorite thing – teach. Ahh…something good to focus on. So simple. But so good.

The lesson today was one very near and dear to my heart, weaving social emotional learning exercises into every lesson for students. You see, at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, I teach future teachers how to teach. My goal is to help these future educators support the humanity of their future students. It creates an environment of learning and respect unparalleled. We talked about things adults should already know – kids have emotions too and it’s hard to learn when your world is controlled by them. So we teach them to allow emotions and to work through them…never ignore. We support – simple as that.

It’s not hard for my passion to come through during this lesson, and I felt myself again throughout the class. We talked through the entire 55 minutes, heads nodded, and I thanked God I had been able to teach that lesson on this especially hard day.

Then, I got on the elevator and when I hit the first floor, the door refused to open. Because of course it did.

But by this point, I was laughing. I imagined my grandmother and Jesus giggling with one another, knowing how much I appreciate irony, and the continued blunders in my day actually started to make me feel better. So I looked for the good, just like grandma said. I laughed, and the door finally opened.

When I got back to my office, I had an email from a student…

“Hello Dr. Koch!

First of all, I want to commend you for doing such a great job doing what you do. I have been heavily impacted by mental health from multiple different angles throughout my life and I appreciate how much emphasis you put on it in your teachings. I have been on the edge of crying multiple times throughout the course of this unit because I genuinely want the best for the world and the students that I am going to be teaching, and I want to promote mental health awareness in my future classroom. Seeing how you’re able to implement it while not letting it get too much in the way of the curriculum is really inspiring to me, so I felt a thanks was necessary.”

So I cried again. Because of my ability to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get on with my day, just like my child with Epilepsy had done today, I got to positively impact someone else. Because I can see the good. I can always see the good.

Thanks, grandma. Love and miss you.

I saw Jesus.

They say He meets us at our worst…that He’s made strong in our weakness.

But we have to let Him.

For three years, I tried to be the reason my husband was okay. With constant suicidal thoughts, and more attempts than I knew about, Jeremy lived in a dark and terrifying brain. I knew some of his pain, but he had made it clear to me he didn’t want the world to know his reality.

So we lived in silence. Sometimes communicating. Mostly ignoring.

But to the world, we were the perfect couple. High-school sweethearts who had it all together. Two kids. A home. College grads both in careers we loved. Side note…did you know mental illness doesn’t care about all that?

Loneliness was all I knew. Independence was what I thrived on. My husband’s mental illness caused him to physically and emotionally check out, detach from the world…detach from us. I was a solo parent. Most mornings, I got our boys up, fed, ready for the day, and off to daycare without even seeing Jeremy. If he was sleeping, and I could tell he was still breathing, that was a win. If he came out of the bedroom to say goodbye to the boys, I actually worried more.

Was this him accepting suicide as his fate? Was he saying goodbye to us for good?

Turns out, on February 16, 2012, he was doing just that.

Jeremy, in suicide attempt number four, drove directly into a semi truck on the highway. No, I didn’t know how many attempts he had before that. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure this was that. Or…I didn’t want to know that truth. This was the first time I saw him…

Severely broken. This time, not only mentally. Jeremy’s leg was shattered, his femur protruding from his upper hip. His punctured lung, fractured pancreas, brain bleed, and severe colon trauma called for a medically-induced coma and for the machines to do the living for him. I remember looking at my husband in this state wondering if this was the most alive he’d felt in years…trapped in a brain that wanted nothing more than for him to die.

Under that hospital gown, Jeremy’s abdomen was open…covered by nothing more than what I assumed to be grocery store saran wrap. The surgeons assured me this was completely safe; they simply needed to be able to intervene faster than closing and reopening his abdomen over and over would allow. And it was now, the fourth surgery on February 19, 2012, that would prove to be more than I could handle alone.

We had family and friends who knew little of our reality. They knew Jeremy had Depression, some even knew he had had an inpatient mental health hospital stay, but they had no idea of the severity of his condition. And here they sat with me, lights flickering in a dark waiting room of Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, waiting for the surgeon to explain how this most crucial surgery would go.

“Short surgery…good,” Dr. Forse explained. “That will mean the body is healing itself. A couple hours would be ideal; I should be able to tell by then if I’ll need to intervene more. But a long surgery is a bad sign; we want the body, not me, to do most of the work.”

And his disappeared behind steel doors, followed closely by six eager surgical interns. I remember imagining that Dr. McDreamy was back there somewhere, and everything would have to be okay then.

I felt more alone in that moment than I ever had. Surrounded by friends and family, I saw nothing but the absence of my husband’s surgeon, a man who now held my husband’s life in his hands. And I lost it…finally.

I screamed at God. With every negative word I could come up with, I cursed Him. “WHY?! WHY HIM? WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO DESERVE THIS?! FUCK YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!”

Everything in my body released three years of frustration, sadness, loneliness, and confusion in one fit of anger, and I directed it at the One I needed desperately, but refused to see. When my sobs ultimately ceased, and I lifted my head to see the family who had desperately tried to support us for years, there was only One I saw.

There, on a chair in front of my crumpled body on the floor, sat my sister-in-law…nineteen years young, her face soaked with tears. The sadness was palpable. But as my teary vision cleared up, I realized that the tear-soaked face I was looking at was not Jacqui…it was Jesus.

My Light in the darkness. I saw Jesus. And He wasn’t laughing…taking pleasure in the terror and anger I was living in as I felt He must have been.

He was destroyed…His face streaked with tears knowing how badly His daughter needed her Father. But she wouldn’t turn to Him. She refused to submit. She dismissed His attempts to help her see Him. She continued to live a lonely existence.

I understood in that moment. Jesus hated this for me.

I saw Jesus. He showed Himself to me in my weakest moment. On February 19, 2012, on my knees in a surgical waiting room, I gave my life to Christ.

Remember I said a two-hour surgery would be a good sign?

Dr. Forse walked back through those steel doors 45 minutes later.

My husband’s broken body was healing itself, and this surgeon had no explanation.

But I knew.

March 2012
February 2022

Follow our journey with mental illness, a daily reality we continue to manage, @anchoringhopeformentalhealth on Facebook and Instagram. Now we live.

  • Jeremy & Bailey Koch (Hudson and Asher)

Does suicide mean hell?


Let’s just get that right out there, shall we?

And I’d also like to say this is not a topic in which I’m willing to discuss and listen to dissenting opinions. While I’m someone who loves to argue, and even be in the wrong if proven so, hell is not a place we mess with. So allow me to tell you what I know to be true.

First of all, a little about me…

I’m the wife of a man who has attempted suicide multiple times. Additionally, I’m the daughter-in-law of a man who died from mental illness. I also happen to be one hell of an advocate for mental health. With a doctorate in Special Education, I thrive on fighting for those who can’t easily fight for themselves. And I fight best with research.

So let’s start with those of you who believe suicide is a sin.

Fine. I’ll listen. But where does your argument go after we learn that biblically, the only unforgivable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? You really think, just because a person didn’t have time to ask for forgiveness on this earth before death, that Jesus can’t forgive what you believe is a sin?

I don’t know about you, but I won’t limit the power of God that much. I mean, I hear He’s pretty powerful.

But let me take this one step further.

In my research and experience, we know severe mental illness can completely take over a person. Mentally, the world is dark and cloudy. No light. No hope. Physically, it’s nearly impossible to function. No energy. No ability. Emotionally, the truth is flipped. The world is better without them. They are a burden. And cognitively, the only option is to lie. Put on a fake smile as long as you can.

So when one is given a stage 4 cancer diagnosis, they are told something like, “The cancer has spread to all parts of the body. Even with treatment, this diagnosis may be fatal. Treatment must be immediate and intense, and while survival is possible, it’s difficult when the illness is this advanced.”

Now, allow me to reword this for you. “The mental illness has spread to all parts of the body. Even with treatment, this diagnosis may be fatal. Treatment must be immediate and intense, and while survival is possible, it’s difficult when the illness is this advanced.”

Mental illness, no different than any other illness, can result in death. It’s tragic, terrible, and just plain sucks, but it’s true. So again, let’s not limit the power of God.

Do you really think one who is consumed by dark thoughts every second and truly believes the world will be better off without them will be condemned to hell? Do you have such little faith in God’s all-knowing powers to actually believe He doesn’t understand mental illness?

I know Him better than that.

My God is an all-knowing God. My Jesus is an all-forgiving Jesus…you know, unless you don’t believe in Him.

So believe.

And rest knowing that any loved one you’ve lost to mental illness is rocking it with Jesus. I’ll see y’all there one day.

Dr. Bailey Koch